When MPS Government Bureaucrats Attack The First Amendment

BACKGROUND

I’m a parent of a Milwaukee Public School child.  This is a choice that I made because I believe in the city of Milwaukee and I believe in public education.  This year, I am also an officer at my school’s PTA.  For those who aren’t familiar with how a PTA works, they are an advocacy group for children.  They’re traditionally established at a school, but they’re an outside organization, just like a scouting troupe or other organization that meets in a school.  They are typically registered as a 501(c)3 tax exempt entity.  They provide programming for children and families, and function under their bylaws, which are recognized by the school.

A public school is a government unit filled with government employees and overseen by a number of standards–but most policy decisions come from the elected School Board.

In the mid 1990s, the School Board passed a policy regarding fundraising of outside parent groups, Administrative Policy 7.22.  The policy is very vague, and there are multiple interpretations of how it should be applied, and different school principals have read it in different ways.  (Also, keep in mind, it wasn’t until this year that some bureaucrat decided this policy needed to be enforced.)  In some schools, the principal is saying it limits parent groups to 2 fundraisers per school year.

ISSUES

This policy raises two important Constitutional issues:  Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association.

The PTA is an outside association.  Its own policies frown upon using children as entrepreneurs–which would seem to be the intent of the policy.  But if a parent group sells hotdogs at an open house, and sells t-shirts with school logos on it, even though no child is doing anything–the school will count that as two fundraisers and prohibit any further fundraising.  So, if I wanted to have a restaurant night fundraiser (where typically they donate a percentage of the receipts to the PTA), even if I don’t use any school resources, it would violate the policy.  The new enforcement of this policy by the district could cut some PTA budgets by 75%–severely impacting their ability to get their message out, while at the same time interfering in the legal activities of a private association.

It is very clear that the solution is the the School Board to address this policy and ensure that the policy does not run afoul of the first amendment.  Protecting children from having to do fundraising is a worthwhile goal, but the current enforcement of the policy is harmful to children.  It shows disregard for our laws, and it inhibits the parents from doing their job as part of an advocacy organization.  In a district that already has so many budgetary shortfalls, it is absurd to push a policy that takes away resources from an organization that funds student activities, scholarships, and is the front line in one of the pro-ported goals of the district–getting parents and families involved with education.

 

What’s Worse than Government Censorship?

The novice government becomes the master of censorship.  They refuse to let journalists publish articles on topics that are controversial, stir public unrest, or portray the government in a poor light.  They have no problem imprisoning writers that run afoul of reporting the approved narrative—even going so far as to “disappear” people that are chronic problems .  Like I said…all the stuff of novices.

The expert government knows how to maintain the perception of a free press, while at the same time instilling fear into writers so that they will self-censor.    Consider a recent report from PEN America, a leading group on literacy and human rights, which examines the effects of pervasive surveillance in the United States–the FDR Group surveyed 520 U.S. writers and found:

28% have curtailed or avoided social media activities, and another 12% have seriously considered doing so.

24% have deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations, and another 9% have seriously considered it.

16% have avoided writing or speaking about a particular topic, and another 11% have seriously considered it.

85% say they are worried about the current levels of government surveillance of  Americans.

76% believe that increased government surveillance is especially harmful to writers because it impinges upon the privacy they need to create freely.

What good is free speech and free press if those who conduct investigative journalism are afraid to do their jobs?  One of the bedrock ethics of journalism is to protect your sources–but how does that journalist do that if their phone calls are being listened to, if their emails are being read, their library records are being monitored, and their online searches are being recorded?

I’m not claiming that the United States is an expert government at forcing journalists to self-censor.  On occasion, they’re willing to internationally pursue whistle blowers and sources to the point that the rest of the world laughs at us.  However, all it takes is a couple of “actual threats,” and some outrageous NSA monitoring to make even mainstream journalists paranoid that the government is watching.  Then again, is it paranoia, if it’s true?

…I probably shouldn’t have said that.

To read the full results of the survey, as well as check out the methodology, go to:  http://www.pen.org/sites/default/files/Chilling%20Effects_PEN%20American.pdf

 

Glenn Grothman Wants to Poison You!

A Wisconsin State Senate committee is scheduled to take up Senate Bill 236–a bill that would open the doors to the legal sale of unpasteurized milk from dairy farmers.  The bill, championed by Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), would set up guidelines for allowing the dumber among us to consume a product that was made safe by Louis Pasteur in 1864.

Consider these facts from the FDA…

Between 1993 and 2006, more than 1500 people from drinking raw milk, or eating cheese made from raw milk.

The CDC reports that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.

Raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses.  Listeria, in pregnant women, can cause fetal miscarriage, or illness/death in newborns.

However, raw milk advocates will tell you it “tastes better,” and point to anecdotal evidence of safety by claiming they have never been made sick by raw milk.  You know what I think tastes better?  Not vomiting all over the place and making a mess inside your pants from food poisoning.  Let me be as graphic as possible and tell you that you can do both of these things (at the same time) for hours on end from food poisoning.  It will leave you so weak, you will wish you had the physical strength to end your existence.   I’ve had food poisoning before–and I certainly wouldn’t invite it into my house again because raw milk “tastes better.”

Happy Armistice Day

It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month…

The Great War, which ultimately silenced or left injured, over 37 million people, finally ended hostilities in 1918.  The “war to end all wars” concluded with a peace treaty in France, the establishment of a League of Nations, and the solemn promise that humanity would do better–it would substitute diplomacy for war, and it would usher in a new era of peace and enlightenment for all.

Following Armistice Day, was Remembrance Day–recognized on the anniversary of Armistice Day, it was a day to honor the fallen dead from the Great War.

In the United States, we celebrate “Remembrance Day” on Memorial Day (also known as Decoration Day, for the tradition of decorating fallen soldier’s graves with flowers).  Today, in the United States, we celebrate Veteran’s Day, in honor of all who have served, both living and dead.

 

In Flander’s Field by John McCrae (1919)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.